“Ms. Snyder, can I go to the bathroom?”
I wish I had never uttered those words.
If almost 31-year-old me could go back and give 9-year-old me advice, it would be never to ask if I can go to the bathroom.
Instead, I’d counsel 9-year-old me to say, “Ms. Snyder, I need to go to the bathroom. Will you please hand me the bathroom pass?”
At this point, one of three things could happen:
- Ms. Snyder could give me an outright “No.” She wasn’t the nicest of teachers, so I could see her doing this.
- She could hand me the hall pass, and I could be on my merry way to the loo.
- She could say, “Can you please wait for 5 minutes until we finish this lesson?”
The first scenario is obviously the ideal one. Here, we’d be skipping any further need to negotiate.
In scenario two, I could get up and take the consequences of walking the halls without the bathroom pass while honoring my body’s needs.
Or, I could politely ask, “When is a better time for me to go then?”
Scenario 3 grants me the agency to say, “Sure” or “I absolutely cannot wait.”
Now, I know that we’re not teaching 9-year-olds to communicate like this because I still see adults in workshops asking if they can go to the bathroom (I’ve done it before and chastised myself all the way down the damn hall after).
But what if we did?
This subtle tweak would teach us as kids the importance of knowing our bodies and knowing that we are the only true permission granter in our lives, instead of having to unlearn asking for permission and relearn agency over ourselves as adults.
No one will ever know me better than I do–not even Geoff, though he would come closest. He sees things about me that I don’t, but that doesn’t mean he knows me better. It means he has useful insights to help me understand myself better.
By not teaching children (and adults) to communicate in this way, we are teaching them to give up their agency and autonomy and hand it to someone else, which is damaging across the board.
Because then it becomes comfortable to do it in other places in our lives.
Like when we know we want to write a book, or quit social media, or use the word f*ck liberally.
Or like when we know we don’t want Indian food tonight, but instead of saying so explicitly, we say, “I don’t really want Indian food. Is that okay with you?”
Instead of trusting our wants, we often look to someone else to tell us it’s okay.
And I have a not-so-sneaky suspicion the damned bathroom question plays into this.
Disconnecting from our wants and desires leads to us diminishing our own vibrance. And then, instead of looking like a beautiful Sapphire, we’re just another rock.
9-year-old me was encouraged to ask for permission far too often.
I should note that even though I don’t have kids, I’m fully aware that 9-year-old brains are not anywhere near fully developed and need many boundaries so as not to unintentionally inflict harm on themselves or others.
However, there are ways to encourage boundaries without taking away the agency of a 9-year-old. After all, they’re still humans. And they happen to be learning how they will be as an adult even at the young age of nine.
Does it take more effort? Yes.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.
The world would be a much better place if we didn’t spend so much time denying ourselves.
I’m fairly convinced that learning never to deny our bodily functions seems like a fundamental place to start.
Happy Friday! You no longer need a permission slip to go to the bathroom (or do anything else). And really, you never did.
State what you need and, if necessary, make a specific ask alongside the need. Life opens up when we communicate like this.
Here’s to never asking, “Can I go to the bathroom?”
You are always your own permission slip, Hosanna.
P.S. I usually write with a specific person in mind based on something I saw, heard, or read. Sometimes that particular person is me. Today is one of those days. I needed to hear this message, so I’m betting you or someone you know might need to hear it.
If you found this helpful (or entertaining), will you do me a favor and share it with a friend who might need to hear it today?
Sometimes I make great things I’m really proud of and forget to tell you about them.
This is the part of the email reserved for those things. But just because they’re at the bottom doesn’t mean they’re not totally awesome. 😉
I recently invited Emily Carter on the Make it Mentionable Show to have a conversation about rest, relaxation, leisure, and time.
In this episode, Emily and I dive into how our relationships with time, rest, and community influence how each of us feels daily and what we can do to feel more alive.
If you find yourself thinking about the way we spend our time frequently, you’ll feel right at home with Emily and I.
The conversation weaved in some nature metaphors I became overly excited about as well as Emily’s obsession with pawpaw tress and my recent interest in bees.
Laura Morsman is the photographer behind many of the photos you see spread across my site and the show. But more than that, she’s the person I trusted to come on the Make it Mentionable show and have an important conversation about eating disorders, OCD, and the way we search for control.
As we navigate this topic, we also cover:
- What happens when we feel like our body is the only thing we can control?
- What happens when healing doesn’t have an end stamp that says, “I’m cured!” and instead is an ongoing process of maintenance and management?
- Where does perfectionism hide in our lives beyond school and work?
- How do you love and appreciate your parents while acknowledging their role in the coping mechanisms you’ve chosen?
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